Director(s): David Cronenberg
Release Year: 2012
Rotten Tomatoes: 58%
How do we define the world we live in right now? Is it by what we own? What we want? What we need? What we’ve lost? To most, we define our lives by our possessions, whether they be inanimate or living. To others, it’s by what we leave behind; our legacies. A topic like this gets tackled every now and again, but I don’t think a film has done it so blatantly obvious until now. David Cronenberg, who was once a man who rose above many other directors, may have finally reached his lowest point. Cosmopolis is a train-wreck of a film that is only so because of its insanely convoluted and drawn-out conversations, with a runtime that feels way longer than 110 minutes.
David Cronenberg, as many already know, is the director of films such as Videodrome and The Fly, with his most recent films being A History of Violence, Eastern Promises, and A Dangerous Method. The earlier films helped establish Cronenberg as a director who should be watched out for, and the later films were just examples of him directing excellent films which may not be unique, but were presented in a manner that captivated the audience. Cosmopolis does neither of these things because Cronenberg, who once could be considered original and visionary, has ironically become cliché and boring. A Dangerous Method began to show Cronenberg leading into more discussion-based films, and Cosmopolis definitely does that with more bluntness. But few things could be expected in a film that has the following plot description: Riding across Manhattan in a stretch limo in order to get a haircut, a 28-year-old billionaire asset manager’s day devolves into an odyssey with a cast of characters that start to tear his world apart.
You want to know what part of that feels interesting? The characters. Every character is played well. One might even argue that they were played perfectly. But what detracts from every single character, is the dialogue. The long-winded, complicated, senile discussions about wants and needs, and consumerism. Let’s look solely at Robert Pattinson’s character (who is performed exceptionally well, and I definitely have grown respect for Pattinson as an actor): he is a billionaire who needs to know everything so he can predict everything, and thus, nothing is ever a surprise. The film opens with him wanting a haircut. Despite anything that occurs during his journey, he ignores it because he wants what he wants and will stop at nothing to get it. Money is security to him. As his money dwindles, so does his perception of safety. He lives his life by the clock, watching stocks go up and down, all while resting in his limo. He mentions casually how his limo could be his office, or vice-versa, because what does he need from an office? He needs information, which he receives on the go constantly. This is a character who lives and dies by how much currency and information he owns. Take that away, and he will worry about trivial things. But not only is he driven by money, but he’s driven by the same primal instincts we all are: hunger, sex, desire, safety.
So why does a movie with such an interesting character, bare so many flaws? Because like Wall-E did with environmentalism, the message is shoved down your throat so that you are always reminded whenever you try to breathe, that this is what the film is trying to communicate. We get it Cronenberg, our society is consumer-based and we need to smarten up. Tell us something we don’t already know. Information is given to you incessantly, doing nothing but complicating what should be a very simple message. Perhaps this was intentional just because it provides the viewer with the same feeling that Pattinson’s character receives, but it’s so unbelievable. The conversations that occur never feel genuine. They are always intelligent and redundant at the same time, but intelligent in that way where it feels contrived. The only character I firmly believed was actually smart was Samantha Morton’s but that is also because she was selling intelligence without the quirk, something that none of the other actors/characters were doing.
Cosmopolis has only one intention, and because it all relies so heavily on the script as opposed to the acting, it is impossible to defend the film if the script is so poorly done. The visuals are great at times and the film definitely benefits from a very industrial and electronic score. However, what good are those factors in a film that is all discussion? Are these the types of films we are to expect from Cronenberg from now on? The problem is that the message in this film is sent loud and clear, but in the same way that a shotgun blast near the ear is. It’s all you hear, and after one time you are already sick and tired of hearing it. You want to watch a movie that talks about consumerism in an interesting way? Go watch Fight Club again.
Overall: Not Recommended